Million Dollar baby

Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Jay Baruchel, Mike Colter

Director: Clint Eastwood

Frankie (Clint Eastwood) used to be the best ‘cut man’ – the member of a boxer’s team whose job it is to patch up his injuries so he can continue fighting – in the business. He now owns his own gym having trained many boxers who have gone on to be champions but there is always something holding him back. Scrap (Morgan Freeman) knows Frankie from way back in the days when he was a boxer and Frankie was his cut man, but ever since his last brutal fight he has worked for him looking after his gym.

Maggie (Hilary Swank) is a 31 year-old waitress who has a passion for boxing and has set her mind on getting Frankie to train her but he turns her down cold insisting that he simply doesn’t train women. Scrap knows that there is much more to this than meets the eye with Frankie’s blank refusal to Maggie, as he knows that for many years now Frankie has been trying to contact his daughter but to no avail. Consequently the possibility of getting close to another woman just wouldn’t appeal to him much. Nonetheless Scrap teaches Maggie a few tricks and soon enough Frankie begins to notice her and finally on one confrontational night she convinces him of her sincere desire to get at least one serious shot at the one thing that makes her happy, boxing! Frankie takes her on and soon enough they become very close, almost as if he has got his daughter back. She proves to be every inch the champion she aims to be as she knocks out all her opponents to get right to the very top for her chance of her title shot. So far you would not be mistaken for thinking that this is your basic female Rocky, but trust me the punch that hits you at this point is a knockout that will stay with you for many days afterwards, so no this is no Rocky.

Clint Eastwood has been in the business for many years as both star and director but people only really began to appreciate his directing skills after his Oscar triumph with UNFORGIVEN for which he won Best Director and then more recently with MYSTIC RIVER where he was nominated for Best Director. Clint Eastwood has created yet another masterpiece, as the film is so natural and real that you feel as though you might have met the characters somewhere before and probably just not noticed them. There’s excellent character development and beautiful set designs, in particular Frank’s gym with it’s worn out look yet it also has bright hopeful sunlight pouring in that suits all the people that frequent it – damaged goods that are just waiting for one a shot at greatness. Eastwood not only produces the movie but is also credited for creating the original music which is reminiscent of the music from UNFORGIVEN, tender but in a very emotional manner. The screenplay is spot on confidently combining love, drama, a few comedic moments and some gritty reality perfectly. The fight scenes are also very well choreographed and they show just how serious female boxing actually is.

Clint Eastwood is not known to shed a tear in his films as his iconic status probably wouldn’t allow Dirty Harry to do this which limited his range as an actor but not his ability as he showed in THE BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY and IN THE LINE OF FIRE where he finally gave emotionally vulnerable performances. In this movie he perfectly inhabits the character of a man so guilty of past sins that he attends mass everyday and manages to portray the anguish and ability to love just right. His performance is expertly complemented by Morgan Freeman as his old friend who has a special link to him being also in many ways similar to him, and their onscreen chemistry is priceless. Hilary Swank gives her best performance since BOYS DON’T CRY and she proves that that Best Actress Oscar she won was no fluke. She gives an excellent performance that is not over the top nor too laid back and she holds her own against Freeman and Eastwood.

With a good story, solid performances and a dose of reality this is another masterpiece from Clint Eastwood!

5 out of 6 stars

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